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BOOK REVIEW - NEIL GAIMAN & MICHAEL ZULLI -  THE SANDMAN #10 - THE WAKE. 1997 DC COMICS. 

 

The last book in the awesome Sandman series, marking the end of an era with a haunting requiem steeped in mourning and melancholia. Morpheus, The King of dreams, (aka The Sandman) is dead. His family of elemental entities, including Despair, and Death, receive a summons to his wake and his funeral. They unite in sorrow to lament his passing. They are joined by gods, elves, fairies (including Titania of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream fame), and a variety of dreaming mortals (some from earlier Sandman stories), who reflect on what their life’s dreams have meant to them. They are touched by the passion, creative inspiration, and fear that he enriched their lives with in some way. But are Morpheus dead? Yes, and no. He is now drawn as a ghostly pale figure, trembling at the thought of meeting his family but aware that he must do so. He cannot die forever for any dream will resurrect him. In some ways, his death is a sense that he is trapped, unable to ever truly depart from his life. The final page of part one of the book has Morpheus opening the door to approach his family once more. In death he is ever resurrected.  The effects of his death are then reflected in a series of closing stories. A man first appearing in Sandman #2, The Doll’s House, has lived for hundreds of years. Once each century, he has met with the Sandman for a drink, but the last meeting was missed by Morpheus (was he dead at the time?). The man now visits a Renaissance re-enactment event, where he bitterly criticises every aspect of the history that is misrepresented or reduced to cliché.  He does however have a touching love affair with a young black lady called Gwen (who he calls Guinevere).  When he contemplates killing himself due to the Sandman’s non-appearance, he meets a member of Morpheus’s family who grants him any wish he wants. The final panel indicates that his new immortal friend is Gwen.  In another story, a Confucian scholar is cast into exile by an ungrateful emperor. He walks through a vast desert, following ca cat called He Who Walks alone, seeking the land to which he has been exiled. He meets Morpheus, who advises the lost wanderer to cross a certain bridge. On the other side of it, he again meets the Sandman, though he could not have possibly overtaken him and set up the same black tent.  The message is that we take something of ourselves with us wherever we go. We cannot make a totally fresh beginning when we remain who we are. Something of who we are and whom we meet will always be waiting for us in our futures. The Sandman is giving himself this lesson as much as he offers it to the wise man. The very touching finale involves the last days of William Shakespeare, dying, as he struggles to write The Tempest, his last play. It’s conclusion, about Prospero, a magician who forsakes his craft forever, inspires Morpheus, who knows that he never could forsake his nature. Here is Gaiman’s tribute to a true teller of tales, and a man who was as inspiring as he was inspired. The Sandman remains the greatest comic series of all time, dreamlike and deeply symbolic, surreal and wonderful in every page. http://www.dccomics.com/

 

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